University of Washington

Joe Mathis, Huskies’ top pass rusher, out for season due to foot injury

Washington linebacker Joe Mathis celebrates a sack in the second quarter. Mathis is out for the rest of the season with an injured foot.
Washington linebacker Joe Mathis celebrates a sack in the second quarter. Mathis is out for the rest of the season with an injured foot. jbessex@gateline.com

Joe Mathis tried to rehabilitate the foot injury that kept him out of the Washington Huskies’ last three football games, tried to get healthy in time to return to the field before this season ended.

But it was decided that surgery was the best option, and the Huskies will instead have to play the rest of the year without their best pass rusher.

UW coach Chris Petersen announced Monday that Mathis, the senior outside linebacker, will not return this season. Mathis had five sacks in UW’s first six games before injuring his foot. Petersen said a few weeks ago that he expected Mathis back at some point this season, though a timeline was never available.

Late last week, Petersen said, Mathis and UW’s doctors decided it was best that the Ontario, California, native undergo season-ending surgery.

“He might have been able to rehab and get in there for some games down the road,” Petersen said, “but just between him and the doctors and all that stuff, (they) just thought after rehabbing it for a couple weeks, I don’t think he was going to feel real comfortable.”

Mathis finishes his UW career with 78 tackles, 15 1/2 tackles for loss and nine sacks. He thrived this season at UW’s hybrid “buck” linebacker position, particularly in blowout victories against Stanford and Oregon, and began to earn recognition as a potential NFL draft selection. Having surgery now makes it more likely Mathis will be healthy in time for the draft combine in February.

It has been an eventful four years for Mathis at UW. He played a reserve role as a true freshman in 2013, but clashed with Petersen’s new coaching staff after Steve Sarkisian’s departure and considered leaving the program. He ultimately decided to stay, and has since said that he simply needed to grow up, and realized the new coaches were only trying to help him. He also became a father this year.

Mathis entered the season as one of UW’s most important players, and that status was confirmed once the games began. He had a sack against Portland State, a sack against Arizona, two sacks against Stanford, and a sack and three tackles for loss against Oregon. His competency as a pass rusher allowed the Huskies to pressure quarterbacks with only their front four or five players, and they led the nation in sacks through the first four weeks of the season despite rarely blitzing.

The Huskies have not hit opposing passers with as much frequency without him. They have only three sacks in the three games since Mathis’ injury after totaling 24 in the six games he played.

Fourth-year junior Connor O’Brien has replaced Mathis in the starting lineup and has two sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss this season. Redshirt freshman Benning Potoa’e is beginning to see more time at that position, too.

“Fortunately, the next guys have been playing, and they’ve been playing hard, getting meaningful reps and all that,” Petersen said, “and that’s just kind of how it goes.”

ROSS, JONES HONORED

Two more Huskies players earned player of the week recognition from the Pac-12.

Junior receiver John Ross III was voted the league’s offensive player of the week after catching six passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns in UW’s 66-27 victory at California, and junior defensive back Sidney Jones was named defensive player of the week after intercepting two passes and breaking up two others.

ASU KICKOFF TIME

Washington’s Nov. 19 home game against Arizona State will kickoff at 4:30 p.m. and air on Channel 13, meaning the Huskies will finish the regular season having played only three games that began later than

5 p.m.

The Apple Cup game at Washington State is scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff on Friday, Nov. 25.

Huskies opponent this week

USC TROJANS (6-3 overall, 4-2 Pac-12)

4:30 P.M. SATURDAY, HUSKY STADIUM, CH. 13, 1000-AM, 97.7-FM

COACH: Clay Helton (12-7 in parts of three years overall and at USC)

AGAINST THE HUSKIES: USC leads the series 51-29-4.

SCOUTING REPORT: The sky was falling in Los Angeles after the Trojans began this season with a 1-3 record, but USC has won five consecutive games since then and is still in contention for the Pac-12 South title. A big reason for that: the promotion of redshirt freshman Sam Darnold to starting quarterback, ahead of former Skyline High star Max Browne, who was benched after USC’s first three games. Darnold, listed at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, has completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 1,874 yards and 20 touchdowns with four interceptions in six games as the Trojans’ starter. His average of 8.7 yards per pass attempt ranks 12th in the country. … USC ranks 15th nationally in offensive yards per play with an average of 6.61, and 12th nationally in yards per rush at 5.61 Running backs Ronald Jones II and Justin Davis give the Trojans a strong 1-2 punch, though Davis has been sidelined recently by an ankle sprain. The Los Angeles Times reported that Davis has been cleared to return to practice this week, though it remains to be seen whether he can play Saturday. … USC has several productive receivers, a group led by star junior JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has caught 48 passes for 641 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Darreus Rogers (38 catches, 487 yards, 2 TDs) and Deontay Burnett (31 catches, 329 yards, 4 TDs) are popular targets, too. … USC ranks 39th nationally in yards per play allowed, and 38th in scoring defense. … UW coach Chris Petersen said USC cornerback Adoree’ Jackson is the best kick returner he’s ever seen. Jackson, who also plays offense occasionally, has two interceptions this season, a punt return for a touchdown and a kick return for a touchdown. … USC’s offensive line includes right tackle Zach Banner, the former Lakes High School star and the son of UW Hall of Fame offensive lineman Lincoln Kennedy.

DID YOU KNOW: Washington has won three of its past five games against the Trojans.

 

Cougars opponent this week

CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS (4-5 overall, 2-4 in Pac-12)

7:30 P.M. SATURDAY, MARTIN STADIUM, ESPN, 710-AM

COACH: Sonny Dykes (40-43 in seventh year overall; 18-28 in fourth year at Cal)

AGAINST THE COUGARS: California leads the series 46-26-5.

SCOUTING REPORT: Cal has one of the Pac-12’s most dynamic offenses, but the Golden Bears’ defense is so bad that WSU should have no problem scoring a bunch of points. Cal allows 44.4 points per game, and gave up 66 last week to Washington. Only one other FBS team allows more yards per rush than Cal, and only three FBS teams allow more yards per play. … Still, the Cougars will have to contend with Cal quarterback Davis Webb (30 TD passes) and star receiver Chad Hansen, who leads the league in receptions (64) and receiving yards (840). He returned from an ankle injury to catch five passes for 70 yards and a touchdown last week against the Huskies. … The Bears still rank 17th nationally in scoring offense with 39.7 points per game, and they rank 45th nationally in offensive yards per play. … Khalfani Muhammad leads the team in rushing with 648 yards on 101 carries. Tre Watson is right behind him with 513 yards on 100 carries. … The Bears have again sustained several injuries to their defensive backs, which led to UW receivers John Ross and Dante Pettis catching three TD passes apiece this past Saturday.

DID YOU KNOW: Cal is 0-4 on the road this season, and has not allowed fewer than 45 points in any of those losses.

Christian Caple: @ChristianCaple

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